Potential was always good today but dry air in the lower levels produced a strong capping inversion which only very high surface temperatures would break. Well today cracked 40° in a number of areas around SE Qld and the Darling Downs so surface heating wasn't a problem. Hopes then lay on moisture being dragged in by a southerly change, which is what eventuated.
The first cell was firing W of Kyogle in NSW by 1pm and heading NE so I took off towards Beaudesert. After arriving I was concerned than continuing S would take me straight into the storm so I diverted W to Boonah then SE towards Rathdowney. The cell seemed to be tracking straight up the Mount Lindesay Hwy so I stopped just W of Rathdowney.
As the storm continued NE I was torn between following it up the Mount Lindesay Hwy and probably grappling with rain, hail and strong winds, or heading back the way I came which would be safer but take me away from the storm for a while.
Meanwhile the back of the storm was looking rather nice with strong updrafts becoming visible above a likely hail core.
Normally I prefer to stay ahead of the storms when chasing but this thing looked great from behind so I loitered about for while then eventually headed back around the way I came to avoid driving the storm. Another small cell was now flanking the main storm to its W but it managed to stay well ahead of me.
A bunch of cells had now taken off from a NW-SE line from Esk down to Byron Bay. My aim at this point was to follow the first storm up Beaudesert Rd but it took off quicker than I expected. Although more activity was developing to the S.
With storms moving over Mt Tamborine, the next trick was navigating around the mountainous terrain to some decent viewing spots. This is around Wonglepong to the N of Canungra:
The best road headed S to Canungra and towards oncoming rain before turning N up the mountain. I stopped on the NE outskirts of Canungra as storm activity started closing in from all sides. Being unable to keep up with the first storm turned out to be a blessing as these subsequent storms produced a killer sunset lightning show. The lightning captured in the following photos were all taken using the often unfruitful click-when-you-see-it method - even the shot with the streamers, which I was very surprised to capture.
The rain started as it just got dark enough to try for the lightning using continuous mode on the camera. I turned the camera around to the NE as the storm tracked over me. The strong colours are an all natural result of the intense sunset:
The rain finally got too heavy so I retreated to the car.
I continued slowly N up Mt Tamborine being in no hurry to get back inside the rain.
Once the rain had passed, more storm activity became visible to the W.
The location where the gliders take off would be the perfect spot as countless CGs (cloud-to-ground lightning) dropped:
The following is a composite image of 17 20s-exposures. There were so many similar bolts landing, I thought it would be worthwhile showing them all in one shot than showing 17 similar photos.
I was also shooting tight with a second camera:
Rain started falling a little closer with a number of intra-cloud flashes above my head. I hoped like mad for a huge bolt right in front of me but of course it didn't happen.
This would never get old but the line eventually moved on. I thought we were all done and dusted when I saw flashes to the S. There didn't seem to be anything on radar except for some activity way S between Tweed Heads and Byron Bay so I was a bit surprised at how visible the lightning was.
A brilliant day today where I think I got a bit lucky as storms popped up all over the place. I sometimes get frustrated at being in the wrong place on some chases so it was nice to be rewarded!